The Gentle Savior

Seeing Jesus Through the Eyes of the Women Who Met Him

Single and Happy

March 21, 2019
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This week the Wall Street Journal published an article called “Mastering the Art of Being Single,” which reminded me of the following article I originally posted back in 2012. I’ve updated a few sections.

Since 2012 the number of single adults in the U.S. has nearly equaled the number of married adults. According to the WSJ article, as of 2017 “more than 120 million U.S. residents, or almost 48% of adults aged 18 or older were divorced, widowed or had never been married.” That’s up from 39 million in 1970. They call the rise of singles “one of the biggest demographic trends of the past 50 years.”

Women today are single for a variety of reasons. Some are completing their education and getting established in a career before getting married. Some are taking advantage of their freedom to engage in ministry and mission work. The average age of first marriage is closing in on 30, although some women are cohabitating at an earlier age. This twenty-something group also, of course, includes women who would like to be married but are waiting to find the elusive “Mr. Right.” Not to be disregarded are those women who are uninterested in ever being married, some of whom commendably choose to devote their lives to the service of God and his people. 

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Jesus and Protecting Women against Violence

February 1, 2019
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As I learn about all the ways women around the globe are oppressed, exploited and abused, I can’t help but wonder what is wrong with humanity and how do we stop it? One key step, at least where Christianity has influence, is looking at how Jesus treated and taught about women in the Gospels, according to author Elaine Storkey. You can already tell she’s singing my song, right?

I started Storkey’s book Scars Across Humanity nearly a year ago but put it down for a while during the busy season for our bed and breakfast. Only recently did I pick it up again and finish it, and I am so glad I did.

Storkey aims to help readers understand the scope of violence against women occurring across the globe and consider underlying factors and ways to overcome them. The understanding part was difficult for me. Her eight chapters documenting abusive practices and atrocities against women are hard on the heart.  She looks across the world’s cultures and societies – reporting on female-specific abortion and infanticide, female genital mutilation, so-called honour killings, intimate partner violence, rape, sexual abuse, trafficking and prostitution. And it’s all happening right now. In the 21st century.

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Expect the Unexpected

December 14, 2018
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As we enter these next couple of weeks leading up to Christmas, it seems appropriate to reflect again on that moment of angelic visitation when Mary learned that she was about to become miraculously pregnant with the Son of God:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

 Luke 1: 45-55

This announcement of an imminent virgin birth by the power of the Holy Spirit – one of the few times the Bible records a woman’s voice in praise of God* –  would have signaled a major event for the original first-century readers. Yet, Luke placed another unexpected twist in the opening of his gospel. He positioned Gabriel’s announcement to Mary immediately after an account of divine visitation on Zechariah. (Read More)

Our Judging Has to Stop

October 29, 2018
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My awesome daughters can be very insightful — and also don’t judge me.

 

I’m very blessed to have two smart adult daughters. They sometimes make suggestions (or lovingly enlighten me about myself), and I figure that if I ever expect them to listen to my advice it’s only fair that I respect their wisdom too. When my older daughter Jessi recommended that I read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis, I got right on it.

Jessi was right that I would like this book. Each chapter is about a lie we tell ourselves, and when I got to the chapter called “I’m better than you,” one paragraph struck a particularly familiar chord:

“…We all judge each other, but even though we all do it, that’s not an excuse. Judging is still one of the most hurtful, spiteful impulses we own, and our judgments keep us from building a stronger tribe . . . or from having a tribe in the first place. Our judgment prohibits us from beautiful, life-affirming friendships. Our judgment keeps us from connecting in deeper, richer ways because we’re too stuck on the surface-level assumptions we’ve made.”

I wrote on the topic of judgment a few years back in a series of posts about relationships among Christian women. At my speaking events I would do anonymous mini-surveys asking women to complete this statement, “I would have more close relationships with the women in my church if only…” The frequency of statements like the following confirmed that we have a real problem: (Read More)

In Gratitude for Love Over Guilt

November 20, 2017
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angel with hands over faceNo question about it, 2017 has been the best year of my life.

I have so much to be thankful for, including getting married to a dear man who is my partner in every way, moving back to scenic West Virginia into a vintage craftsman-style house-of-my-dreams located in a quaint historic village, and working at what I love from my home office. Of course, I have my beautiful daughters and extended family, including all the new family I married into.

In reflecting on my many blessings, of course God’s faithfulness comes to mind and this one thing especially:

No more guilt.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus… (Romans 8:1)

We are so often plagued by guilty feelings. Even though the Bible and the pastor keep telling us we are forgiven, it seems like guilt should be the natural response to our inability to shake free of sin. It’s like we think guilt is a fruit of the Spirit, but it’s not. (Read More)

Some Resources for #metoo

October 18, 2017
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This week’s #metoo campaign on social media has been a powerful and sad reminder of how many of us have experienced sexual abuse, assault, or harassment. If you missed it, the point was for women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to write “Me too” as a Facebook status in an attempt to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

I have especially appreciated the #complicit follow-up, in which men have acknowledged their part in the problem even though they may never have perpetrated violence against a woman. They confess that their objectification of women, their silence in the face of misogyny, their laughter at statements degrading or mocking women make them complicit in a culture that allows abuse and protects abusers.

Jackson Katz’s insightful statement pointing out that the way our language about sexual violence practically ignores the existence of predators is also making the social media rounds again. By the way, his powerful TED Talk about violence against women being a men’s issue is definitely worth watching.

Awareness of this issue is so important and is a topic Christians should be addressing regularly because so many women and men in our churches have been affected by it. Jesus was an excellent model of respect for women. In The Gentle Savior Bible study, I pointed out in Chapter 10 that

(Read More)

Book Review: Love Big, Be Well

October 2, 2017
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Hi Friends! I don’t usually post book reviews, but this is special because I am so proud of my dear friend and former pastor Winn Collier for this beautifully written volume:

Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town ChurchLove Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town Church by Winn Collier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading Love Big, Be Well by Winn Collier made my heart happy, and I highly recommend it to readers who are hungry for a break from big church clichés and over-promising certainties.

The book’s premise is that a pastor returns to the ministry after some time away working a secular job and accepts a position with a small town congregation, the fictional Granby Presbyterian Church. The book is a series of occasional letters from Pastor Jonas to his flock over the course of six years as he gets to know them, grows to love them deeply, and walks through life with them. He shares his thoughts about God, his experiences with God, and how his beloved faith community can rest in God’s love. (Read More)

Never Stop Asking the Questions

September 11, 2017
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While we were still reeling from the disturbingly open displays of racism in my beloved Charlottesville, hurricane season swept in like a vengeance with Harvey and Irma. Wildfires are ravaging exquisitely beautiful forests out West. Earthquakes rocked cities in Mexico.

Add to these massive catastrophes the countless recent individual experiences of serious illness, death, splintering relationships, etc.

One of these tragedies alone can make us wonder where God is and why isn’t he intervening in more obvious ways. I wouldn’t dare speculate on the “why?” questions here, but my thoughts certainly run in the same direction as Martha’s did when she encountered stress and loss. She had the advantage of pondering directly to Jesus, so we might be informed a bit by his responses.

Don’t You Care?

This is the question Martha asked Jesus on that familiar occasion in Luke 10, when she was worried, upset and left alone by her sister Mary. (Read More)

Can My Friends Recognize Jesus on My FB Feed?

July 20, 2017
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Imagine a medical practice whose ads ran with this kind of content:

  • “If your blood pressure is high, it’s your own fault. Just cut the sodium.”
  • “Your smoking addiction offends me.”
  • “Suffering from diabetes? What a jerk you are. If you cared about your family, you would just eat less sugar.”

I can tell you that no doctor with that attitude would ever need to file an Aetna claim from me!

Which brings me to Jesus, a well-known healer of physical misery. Throngs of people flocked to him for relief from their suffering (see Matthew:  4:23-24, 8:16-17, 9:35-36, 4:13-14, 15:29-31, and 20:29-34). They not only knew him as a source of healing, but he was also safe. Matthew says he looked on the crowds with compassion and saw them as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (9:36). That’s why the Canaanite woman could risk asking for help when her daughter “suffered terribly” from demon possession (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30).

Even more important, Jesus offered spiritual restoration and made that offer safe too:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)l

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to introduce a broken world to spiritual healing—rest, peace, restoration, a better way of living, freedom from the chains of sin. I worry, though, that our social media activity is more often presenting an impenetrable barrier to Jesus. (Read More)

God Has Been Good to Me

May 11, 2017
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***

Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.

Psalm 116:7-9

 

I got married! Lynn & Christian April 15, 2017

I got married!
Mr. & Mrs. Christian Pechuekonis
April 15, 2017

Nearly 13 months ago I took a chance and answered a message from a nice looking man named Christian on an online dating site. His profile identified him as a follower of Jesus and a widower who had cared for his wife through a two-year terminal illness. Reading between the lines, I sensed a good-natured man of integrity. He seemed like he might, at the very least, be good friend material. I agreed to my first, first-date in 38 years. So weird.

I had set up my dating site profile four months earlier and had experienced practically no interactions up until then, which was fine. With a couple of years of grieving over my broken marriage out of the way, I felt mostly content with my life—fulfilling job, healthy church, rich female friendships and challenging volunteer work. Still scarred and a little cynical about men (and God, to be honest), I felt no real urgency to have another man in my life and expected that dating would be about an even mix of thrill and disappointment. (Read More)

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